Situated in the northwestern portion of Yunnan province, is Meili Snow Mountain. In actuality, the mountain is part of a subrange of the much larger Hengduan Mountains. Sitting on the border with Tibet, Meili Snow Mountain is regarded as a sacred location for Tibetan Buddhist and a place of pilgrimage. Offering the most exquisite panoramic views in all of Yunnan province, Meili Snow Mountain is an exceptional attraction that cannot be missed.
- Meili Snow Mountain contains numerous snow-capped peaks, 13 of which exceed an elevation of 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) above sea level.
- The highest peak is Kawagebo, soaring to 6,740 meters (22,110 ft), offering stunning views of the valley and rivers below.
- The mountain is unique in that it has numerous climactic zones and four district seasons.
- Meili Snow Mountain is an important habitant for several endangered species including snow leopards, Asiatic black bears, red pandas, and clouded leopards.
History Of Meili Snow Mountain
Meili Snow Mountain is considered the first of eight great sacred mountains by Tibetan Buddhists. The highest of the mountains, known by local inhabitants as Kawagebo Peak, is the most sacred. Believed to be the spiritual residence of a warrior deity of the same name, the area’s ancestral religion, Bön, had long been dominated with shamanistic traditions. According to the Bön belief system, good and bad spirits that often resided in natural settings and geographical locations inhabited the world. It has been the long held belief, that if humans trod on the mountain’s peak, thus rendering it unholy, the warrior deity will leave them, with catastrophic consequences. Thus, leaders of surrounding monasteries have maintained a centuries-old sacred natural perimeter around the mountain.
However, despite the sacredness attributed to Meili Snow Mountain and its peaks, several attempts have been made to summit the range. The first attempt was in 1902 by a British team, which proved unsuccessful. In 1991, a joint Chinese/Japanese group attempted to summit, which was met with extensive protests by the local community. That expedition ended in tragedy, when the entire 17-person team perished in a nigh-time avalanche, considered one of the worst mountaineering accidents in history. Subsequent Japanese and American attempts to summit the peaks also proved unsuccessful.
In 2001, citing its religious and cultural significance, the local government passed laws prohibiting all future attempts to summit the peaks of Meili Snow Mountain. Unsurprisingly, the numerous failed attempts to climb the peaks, has furthered the convictions of local Tibetans that the mountain is sacred.
Culture Of Meili Snow Mountain
Because of the sacredness attributed to Meili Snow Mountain, every year in the late fall and early winter, Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims come to pay homage. Thousands come from neighbouring Tibet, Sichuan province, Qinghai province, and Gansu province. The devout spend a week to circumambulate (the ritualistic walk around) the mountain, in addition to lying prostrate at certain important locations along the circuit.
In all, there are 13 peaks comprise Meili Snow Mountain. In addition to the aforementioned Kawagebo, other significant peaks include Jiariren-an, Cogar Laka, Nairi Denka, and Mianzimu. At 6,054 metres (19,862 ft), Mianzimu is the fourth largest. Situated in the southern section of the range, it is widely considered to be one the most beautiful mountains in the world.
The mountain has four large glaciers including Niuba, Nongsong, Sinong, and Mingyong. The largest and longest is the Mingyong Glacier, which stretches from 5,500 meters (18, 045 ft), down to the forest zone located at 2,700 meter (8,858 ft) above sea level during the rainy season. Because it descends from Kawagebo Peak, Mingyong is considered sacred amongst Tibetan Buddhist. Two temples are located on the edges of the glacier, which are important stops for pilgrims.
Meili Snow Mountain has several climatic zones, complete with a diverse selection of plant and animal life. The topography ranges from grassland, to dense forest, to the frigid snow-capped peaks. The mountain is an important habitat for endangered species such as snow leopards, clouded leopards, red pandas, and Asiatic black bears. Because of this, since 2010 The Nature Conservancy is working to create a new biodiversity conservation and sustainable development model in the region, under a grant issued from the EU-China Biodiversity Program. The organization is working with local and provincial governments to establish two national parks, one of which would be at Meili Snow Mountain.
- One of the best places to view Meili Snow Mountain is from Feilai Temple located near the Mingyong Glacier. The temple has a platform for burning incense, which has become an exceptional vantage point for watching sunrises and sunsets.
- The best time of year to visit the mountain is from January to May. Although this is during the region’s winter months, the weather is usually sunny and the air is fresh and dry.
- During the summer and fall, Meili Snow Mountain is often shrouded in heavy mist and cloud-cover, thus making it difficult to sightsee.